A Toast to Autumn (and Winter and Spring and Summer)
Cider is the type of year ‘round beverage that has a special place in myMEGusta’s heart in the fall, when jugs appear in farmers’ markets and at the supermarket, and thoughts go to a heated cupful steeped with a little cinnamon.
Seattle’s Pike Place Market has a really special way to enjoy cider: Frozen Granitas!
You’ll find two kinds of cider in those large, seasonal displays: treated (longer shelf life!) and untreated, which means there’s living yeast in that bottle. If you keep it long enough, it will start to ferment, making an adult beverage, not such a bad thing so long as the right people (not the kids) enjoy it at the right time (not before driving). In history, it was the original “home brew” in countless cottages wherever apples grew.
Hard cider, always popular in Europe, particularly in Great Britain and France, is only recently becoming a major libation in the United States, and it is produced with the same care and science as any other fine beverage. For example, producers control the strains of yeast which inoculate the sweet apple juice, very much like vintners assiduously select the type of yeast added to their must, or grape juice.
Like Belgian beers, some of today’s modern ciders are made with flavorings, such as citrus or lavender to name a few.
One very well known and otherwise brilliant chef had, in the folly of her youth, gone on a gourmet adventure in Normandy and didn’t pay a lot of attention to what she was consuming. Only after arriving back in the States did she find out that the cider she had enjoyed so much on her trip had been the alcoholic type. And that that probably accounted for all the daily impromptu afternoon naps. Fortunately, she was too poor to have a rental car.
I had the huge pleasure of attending a cider and cheese tasting recently, led by the owner of Finnriver Farm/Cidery located on Washington’s Olympic peninsula www.finnriver.com a small, family operation which is becoming a leader in fine cider production.
MyMEGusta’s favorite factoid was that just as there are different grapes produce different wines, so do different apples, the higher acid varieties being the best. Did you know that throughout the country, with the exception of the Northeast for some reason, many cider apple orchards were destroyed during Prohibition? They are now being replanted, particularly in the Pacific Northwest .
But any apple will work. In 2012, Finnriver sought donations of fallen apples, especially the odd and misshapen, from whoever will deliver them to the farm, blending them into their special Farmstead cuvee. Ten cents per and with 10% of the proceeds went to the local Food Bank, very creative alchemy turning bruised apples into dollars for nutrition.
I grew up with cider, called Most in Austria. It rains a lot in some parts and apples and pears don’t ripen well and are sour, ideal for making Most. The farmers around Salzburg had a few kegs in the cellar and brought up a jug or two during the winter months. I found the beverage horrible. My taste has changed now.
I always buy cider in the fall and have fond memories of road trips with the family to farms to buy it freshly pressed. It was untreated and did start to ferment. I used to leave my own outside the refrigerator for a couple of days to kick start the process. A toast to fall – my favorite season!